Link: Auto-translation of foreign web pages getting more convenient

I sometimes visit web pages that are in languages other than American. To understand those pages, I need translation. For a while, the Google Toolbar has had a useful button: you can press this button to go to a page with an automatic translation of the page you were viewing. But but there was a limitation: the Google server had had to be able to fetch the page, or else it couldn't see the page to translate it.

But toolbar got a new translation feature recently. You can ask it to send the text from your browser to the translation service and get it back. It's all Web2.0. You can get translations of pages that the Google server can't fetch over the internet. It's pretty nice. This feature is in the Google Toolbar for Internet Explorer (that's the browser with the big blue "E") and is coming soon to the Google Toolbar for Firefox. Dare I hope it will come to Chrome soon? I can hope.

(This is probably one of those times I should mention that my opinions are mine, and aren't necessarily those of my employer.)

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Puzzle Hunts are Everywhere, Even Marx Meadow, Hawk Hill, and other places around the San Francisco Bay Area

Against all odds, I wrote about Shinteki Decathlon 5. I played the first weekend; the second weekend I volunteered. Thus, there's a pile of semi-related stuff in that write-up. It's mostly about playing. Thus, you can thrill to the chase after a "wet elephant". You can vicariously experience my unhelpfulness as I ate a really good lemon bar pastry while watching my team-mates solve a puzzle involving flags of all nations. You know, standard game write-up stuff. But in the middle, there's a long aside where I blather about being a volunteer at Marx Meadow, and mixed up in that, there's some semi-coherent speculation and handwaving about how the idea of a "mobile GC" couldn't possibly work, except that obviously it does work so I'm not sure what my point was, exactly, except that I was full of admiration and empty of understanding of how the Shinteki folks keep it all together.

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Link: Google Reader Hooked up to Automatic Translation

A couple of weeks ago, the Google Reader folks announced that I (or you, for that matter) could use Google Reader to subscribe to foreign-language feeds, automatically translated. I thought I'd like it; I've been using it for a while now, and I think it's going to change my life. Not humongously change my life. But it's going to change my life, kinda, and probably for the better. I'm subscribing to more foreign-language blogs. I'm getting windows into some different points of view. Some of these I'd already subscribed to. And when I was pretty sure they were talking about something I was interested in, then I'd go to the trouble to get them translated. But now it's easy to read all of them.

OK, it's pancake photos and a rant that's only a couple of degrees removed from the usual Slashdot nerdly hissyfits. Calling these things "life-changing" is overblown, granted. But this feels like something that could grow over the next few years.

(You remember those disclaimers about how my opinions are mine, and not necessarily anyone else's? Those disclaimers still apply.)

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Book Report: I Claudius

Someone asked for the origin of the name of the Canary Islands, with the caveat that it was a trick question. So everyone present wracked their brains. I asked, "Were they named after dogs?" and they were. Four years of high school Latin... occasionally it pays off. The legacy of Rome lives on in placenames and miniseriesses. Uhm, miniseriess? Miniseries'. Uhm, anyhow.

Before there was Rome, the bloody miniseries set in the time of the Roman Empire was I Claudius. I haven't seen either miniseries, but now I've read I Claudius. It was a guilty pleasure, a soap opera in a time of tyranny. Paranoid emperors, poisoning, betrayal, popular uprisings, gladiatorial games, stolen standards, government for by the horses by the horses, troop movements, perversions, unequal taxation... this book had a lot of fun stuff going on.

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Book Report: The Prestige

If you're an author, e.g. Christopher Priest, there is danger in writing a book that relies on its Amazing! Colossal! Surprising! twist ending. Your audience, while reading the book, will attempt to guess what the twist ending is. They'll probably guess it. Worse, along the way, they might guess something else, a better ending. And then they'll be disappointed with the stuff you wrote. The Prestige could have been a better book.

It's about dueling stage magicians yadda yadda, oh what's the point.

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Link: Changing Roles of Katakana (and Italics)

I just read an article with some conjectures about the cultural significance of the rise and fall of katakana amongst Japanese writing systems. Hey, gimme a break, I'm waiting for a slow download, I'm going to read weird stuff. But the interesting part was when he pointed out that in Japanese semaphore code, it takes more than one, uhm, stance to encode each symbol. It takes a variable number, from one to three. In many cases, the stances are supposed to suggest the strokes of the katakana syllable.

Oh now I want a big pile of Japanese text that's been parsed into syllables so I can measure the frequencies, maybe come up with a simple huffman encoding. Oh, my download finished, never mind.

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